Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 Round Up and New Year Resolutions

So, that was 2017. Not the finest of years for us in all honesty, but there is still much to look back on and remember happily so let me attempt a whistle-stop tour!
Stephs Two Girls siblings collage 2017

I'm starting with the complete year of my siblings photos. These pics, which I've been taking monthly for the past four years, mean a lot to me and they show how the girls are growing up together beautifully. It *may* have been difficult to get the girls to produce some of these smiles on demand, but there are many more smiles every day which just weren't captured at the time. These two are the reason I started blogging; but much more than that they are the lights of my life and what keep me going.

This year in May, we finally moved into our new house after first putting an offer on it back in September 2015. I've documented the whole renovation process on my blog, and just need to round it all off with a final post about how it is looking now, seven months after moving in. I've accepted that it will never be a perfect show home, but in the last few weeks we finished off some of the last major pieces of work (barring the patio, which you'll no doubt get to see and hear about next summer) and now it really does feel like our home. 
Garden covered in snow, with Stephs Two Girls

I know we are incredibly lucky to have this, and I am truly grateful to those who have helped us achieve it. Not so enamoured with the builder who lost interest towards the end and made the whole moving process very stressful - it ended up being a couple of days after Tamsin's birthday instead of a couple of weeks before, and downstairs we had no kitchen sink, worktops or carpets when we did move in. But here we are, and fingers crossed, here we are staying! If you can't wait for my major 'almost finished' update, you can take a sneak preview of how it looks now over on Suzanne's Inside, Outside & Beyond blog.

We enjoyed Christmas here with my family and after that we had a small party here in our new home for our closest friends and their families. These friends have been a huge support to me this year, and I hope they know how much they mean to me. We managed to make time for a brilliant weekend trip away in October to a wonderful city, Barcelona, and I did something I've never done before... Segway!
Steph and friends Dab on Segway

This year in June, Sasha finally reached the point where she felt she could no longer attend mainstream school. Although this seemed sudden in some ways, in others I knew it was a long time coming and not such a surprise. She had coped very well with our three house moves in a fairly short period, but her Pathological Demand Avoidance meant that she had found the increased pressure in terms of work and testing at school more and more difficult. She also became aware this year of how different she was compared to her peers, and that has played a big part in this major change.

Several people have commented on how much more relaxed and herself Sasha seems now the stress of school is over; however I'm acutely aware that time has dragged on and 2018 will begin with much action around trying to find what is best for her. A standard home tutor is unlikely to draw many results as Sasha needs to learn in such a 'non-standard' way. Many may question why I am not home-educating Sasha, but the truth is that she's not ready to learn from me. We will need to be innovative, and there will be future update posts on how we proceed of course.

Sadly over Christmas we were left hanging with no fixed answer about what the LA will be doing regarding Sasha's schooling. I've tried to put it to the back of my mind (pretty impossible if I'm honest) and am hoping to bring you new news on that as soon as possible.

Steph, Lynn McCann, Starlight McKenzie, Emma Dalrymple

In January I met up with some other great SEND advocates at a mental health conference at Priestnall School in Manchester, and in July I was honoured to be asked to speak with them as part of a panel of parents at the annual Education Festival. I spent a fair amount of time on Twitter and received great advice from some Twitter friends who are always prepared to go the extra mile - thanks guys, hope you know who you are! I'm hoping to carry on with some work in the education arena over this coming year.

Sasha on beach at Center Parcs

In October we managed a trip to Center Parcs with our old friends, who have joined us at one parc or another almost every year for the past seven years. It was a special trip as Sasha got chance to spend time with a friend she had been messaging with - another girl with a diagnosis of PDA. I'll write more about that another time as it was amazing, as was Sasha's experience of learning how to swim like a mermaid - definitely recommend this for any children under 10!
Sasha in pool at Center Parcs with mermaid tail

I've been busy with the blog over the year and have reviewed the usual eclectic variety of products and experiences - we managed to enjoy a review trip to Eurocamp's Le Brasilia website in France. We should have visited this the year before but had had to cancel our holiday because of an unexpected hospital stay for Sasha. So it was a relief to make it in the end and enjoy some sun, sea and sand! 

Other blogging highlights were reviews of a mattress, the Sea Life Centre, a real Christmas tree, a vacuum and a mop (seriously, one of my favourite products!), and the chance to attend the BritMums awards on a boat as well as checking out an MSC cruise ship with BlogCamp. I also had the opportunity to make bread at The Jamie Oliver Cookery School and won a competition to go back for a different cookery lesson - so am hoping I will find the time for that soon!

This is all just a small snapshot of what's been going on for us this year; sometimes it's easy to forget all the great bits as you get overwhelmed with the harder times.

I never feel like I've managed to write enough of what I would like to for this blog; I'm hoping that in 2018 I will be able to bring you many more PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) focused posts. On the 18th April the PDA Society will be holding their second ever conference and I'm delighted to say I'll be helping at that. 

There's already much more to look forward to in 2018, some known and some of course unknown, but I'm going to put myself out there now and let you know my very unoriginal New Year's Resolution - to lose weight. It's actually quite an unusual one for me, as I've often sworn I would never do a diet. I haven't actually worried much about my weight before now, but being stuck at home with Sasha has obviously provided many more snacking opportunities and it's time to address this. My aim is to feel fitter and healthier in time for a family wedding in August - my eldest brother will be tying the knot and of course I need a new dress for such a special occasion. I'm not brave enough to post a full length selfie here but maybe there will be comparison photos later in the year... I already have a great group who are providing the motivation and support, so watch this space!

So that's it, another year almost over, much to be thankful for. How did yours go, and what are you expecting from the new year? Any resolutions? Leave me a comment, I love to hear from you!

Spectrum Sunday

The Ordinary Moments

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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Boxing Day Sales

Today I took Sasha to the Boxing Day sales.

Excuse me for a minute while I pause and just let that sink in by repeating it to myself...

That is definitely not a phrase I ever thought I'd be saying. As I got into the car this morning, I thought 'what on earth (very polite replacement for what my words would have been had I been able to speak them out loud) am I doing?!'
Sasha outside Toys R Us

I never do sale shopping myself; I honestly can't stand hunting for a bargain unless it's online. And I never take Sasha shopping with me for food or any other general items unless totally necessary - and if that happens, it needs to be a short shopping list with two or three items at most as sensory overload happens and she tires easily. 

So it very definitely wasn't my idea. Sasha proposed it last night at the end of Christmas Day. I think it was suggested when she heard her older tween sister was planning to meet a friend in town to go sale shopping, and Sasha surmised it was a 'big girl' thing to do. 

Except Sasha didn't want to do browsing the high street for a bargain; she had a specific target buy in mind.

More Pokemon plush toys. Sasha had been given a few as Christmas presents, but apparently there are 802 Pokemon (more if you include the variations). So it seems that we still have a few purchases to go....
Sasha with her Pokemon plush toys

I talked the shopping trip idea over with her, to make sure she knew where we were going (to the big retail park where we had tried out sofas), and that she understood that it might be very busy when we got there. She thought about it carefully but decided she still wanted to go, so we set off early.

Amazingly, it wasn't too busy when we arrived (packed by the time we left though) and she was 'happy as Larry' dancing round the aisles and looking at everything carefully. Not all that much stock there, which was a good thing as it made the choosing easier, and we were really lucky that the one she wanted the most WAS there. It really was one of those successful shopping trips that I thought would only happen in my dreams. I mean, it's a big jump from this to what other people would call shopping, but it made a lovely change and I'll take it!
Sasha with a giant Playmobil character

Tamsin and Sasha have got quite close over the holidays and it has been lovely to see them together. I can't imagine a time when the two girls would happily go shopping together, but never say never, eh?!

Hope everyone managed a Merry Christmas? Ours was good, but of course nothing is quite as simple as that, so watch out for my blog post if you're interested...

Stephs Two Girls in Christmas filters

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

Siblings {December 2017}

Here's my festive siblings photo for this month of December:

Stephs Two Girls in Christmas hats

Over the past few years I've been taking monthly photos of the girls to chart their growing up and to join in with the Siblings photo linky.

I love that I have all of these pictures of my two girls to look back on; there has generally been much fun and laughter and it makes me smile remembering the actual time when I was taking the photo.

For the last three or four months though, it has become very difficult to persuade Sasha to sit still and let me take any photos. That's not quite true; she will sit still, but she wants to be pulling a funny face and not smiling nicely.

Tamsin joins in with trying to persuade her sister, but her patience also wears thin at having to carry on smiling at the camera while Sasha mucks around.

Of course I love the funny faces too, but I'm always just that bit too tempted to try and push for a 'smile' photo. Sadly I think we've reached the point where Sasha won't 'play ball' any more. She's told me that she doesn't like it and it's boring when I try to get photos of her, so of course I need to respect that.

I will still try to get my monthly photo fixes next year though, but I think they're going to have to be a bit more 'on the hoof' (excuse the Christmas pun!) and less perfect (ha).

In the meantime, here are some of the out-takes from this month. As usual, there were a few....

Merry Christmas everybody!

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful

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